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An assessment of the endemic spermatophytes, pteridophytes and bryophytes of the French Overseas Territories: towards a better conservation outlook

Abstract

A broad range of climatic and biogeographical conditions are represented in the French Overseas Territories, from sub-polar to equatorial, resulting in a high diversity of endemic species. We mobilized data from herbaria, floras, checklists, literature, the expertise of botanists and plant ecologists to compile the most complete dataset on endemic vascular plants and bryophytes in the 15 French Overseas Territories. To date, 3748 spermatophytes (seed plants), 244 pteridophytes (ferns and lycophytes) and 448 bryophytes are strictly endemic to the overseas territories. New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Réunion harbour the highest numbers of strictly endemic species, yet French Guiana and the French Antilles harbour high numbers of regional endemic species due to their proximity with other territories. The endemic flora of these territories is highly threatened. In particular, 51% of strictly endemic spermatophytes are threatened and many species at risk belong to Rubiaceae and Orchidaceae families. Around 82% and 69% of strict and regional endemic spermatophytes and pteridophytes are found in the Paris herbaria. Only 34% of endemic bryophytes have their label information fully databased so that their total number in Paris herbaria is not known. Databasing the remaining specimens in the collection will greatly enhance future research and conservation projects. To facilitate the use of the information we compiled, we provide a publicly searchable dataset of the checklist. This study not only provides a picture of the flora of French overseas territories; it also identifies gaps in knowledge on which future research efforts in systematics, ecology and conservation could focus.

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Data availability

Data are available in a dryad repository (https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.xpnvx0kfd).

Code availability

Not applicable.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Office Français de la Biodiversité (French Agency of Biodiversity) and the Ministère des Outre-mer (French Ministry of Overseas Territories) for funding and supporting this project. Claudine Ah-Peng is grateful for financial support from DEAL Réunion (agreement n°2020-264) to increase knowledge on the endemic bryophytes of Réunion. We are grateful to RECOLNAT national Research Infrastructure (ANR-11-INBS-0004) and especially all contributors to the “Herbonautes” citizen science program for databasing more than 12,000 Paris herbarium specimens. Véronique Schäfer has had an important contribution to the success of this program. We thank all contributors to regional checklists and all the specialists that helped to validate many taxa, especially Frédéric Achille (MNHN), Jean-François Butaud, Abassi Dimassi (CBNM), Jacques Florence (MNHN), Michel Hoff (Université Strasbourg), Louise Guérot (MNHN), Lilian Procopio (Gwada botanica), Thierry Pailler (Université Réunion), Arthur Bernard (MNHN). Constructive peer reviews of two anonymous reviewers contributed to improve the manuscript.

Funding

The research was supported by the Office Français de la Biodiversité (OFB), the Ministère des Outre-mer and the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN).

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SV, CR, EL, SM, VI, GR, OG, SL, MP, ST contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation and data collection were performed by all authors. Analyses were performed by SV, CR and EL. The first draft of the manuscript was written by SV, CR and EL and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Simon Véron.

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Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Main data sources

FOT Spermatophytes Pteridophytes Bryophytes
New-Caledonia Munzinger et al. (2020) Munzinger et al. (2020) Thouvenot and Bardat (2010); Thouvenot et al. (2011)
French Polynesia Chevillotte et al. (2019) Chevillotte et al. (2019) Söderström pers comm. (2020)
Wallis and Futuna Meyer (2017) Meyer (2017) No data/unknown
La Réunion island Boullet and Picot (2020) Boullet and Picot (2020) Gargominy et al. (2019)
Mayotte Boullet and Dimassi (2020) Boullet and Dimassi (2020) Ah-Peng and Guérot (2019)
Eparses islands Hivert and Cuidet (2020) Hivert and Cuidet (2020) No data/unknown
French sub-antarctic islands Reichardt (1871); Hemsley (1885); Schenck and Schimper (1905); Wagstaff and Hennion (2007); Putten et al. (2010); Lehnebach et al. (2017); Timaná (2018); Timaná et al. (2019) Sundue et al. (2010) Flatberg et al. (2011); Ochyra et al. (2014); Váňa et al. (2014)
La Martinique Stehlé (1939); Howard (1973); Howard (1979); Howard (1988); Howard (1989a; 1989 b); Fournet (2002a; 2002b); Acevedos and Strong (2012); Bernard et al. (2014); Baksh-Comeau et al. (2016); Judd et al. (2018); UICN Comité français et al. (2019); Ulloa et al. (2017); Viscardi (2020) Bernard (2015); Viscardi (2020) Lavocat-Bernard (2018)
Guadeloupe Mickel (1997); Sundue (2010); Bernard (2010); Prado (2015); Ulloa et al. (2017) Gradstein and Lavocat (2020)
Saint-Barthélémy ATE Saint Barthélemy (2020) ATE Saint Barthélemy (2020) No data/unknow?
Saint-Martin Fournet (2002a; 2002b); Franklin S. Axelrod pers. comm. (2020) Fournet (2002a; 2002b) No data/unknown
French Guiana Gargominy et al. (2019); Poncy pers comm., 2020 Gargominy et al. (2019); Poncy pers comm, 2020 Gradstein et al. (2001)
Clipperton Jost and Meyer (2019) Jost and Meyer (2019) No data/unknown
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Etchebery et al. (2010) Etchebery et al. (2010) Etcheberry et al. (1987)

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Véron, S., Rodrigues-Vaz, C., Lebreton, E. et al. An assessment of the endemic spermatophytes, pteridophytes and bryophytes of the French Overseas Territories: towards a better conservation outlook. Biodivers Conserv 30, 2097–2124 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-021-02186-8

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Keywords

  • Bryophytes
  • Checklist
  • Endemism
  • French Overseas Territories
  • Islands
  • Orchidaceae
  • Pteridophytes
  • Rubiaceae
  • Spermatophytes